What is assistive technology? As suggested by the name, Assistive Technology refers to the collection of all those technological devices, services, and processes that assist or help people in need to perform the basic functions of life.
Assistive technology helps people to sustain a more normal and easy life, despite disabilities, diseases, or age.
In this article, we will be rightfully answering the question ‘What is Assistive Technology?‘ Apart, from that, we will also check some merits and demerits of the same.
What is Assistive Technology?
Assistive Technology which is also known as AT, is an umbrella term that covers all those systems, related services, resources, and devices that incorporate the deliverance of assistive technologies or technology-related assistance or training to persons with disabilities in promoting their well-being.
Technical assistance helps in a similar way physical therapy does.
The functional evaluation of right assistive technology shows that it largely helps individuals with disabilities – physical, and mental problems, non-communicable diseases, or developmental disabilities – to maintain a regular and content life.
Assistive technology helps people with disabilities, diseases, and mental problems, to lead a happy and more comfortable life. Technology-related assistance comes in the form of medical devices such as hearing aids, mobility devices, positioning devices, screen magnification software, wheelchairs, and other items of technical assistance equipment.
Assistive Technology – As defined by the Disabilities, Act of 1988
The Disabilities, Act of 1988 has defined Assistive Technology as items, equipment, or systems designed to assist individuals with disabilities in increasing, maintaining, or improving their functional capabilities, whether purchased off-the-shelf or modified or customized.
The Disabilities Act of 1988 was amended in the year 1994. Four years later, this act was replaced by the Assistive Technology Act (AT Act) 1998. Technical assistance can be provided by both high-tech and low-tech acts of assistive services.
New assistive technology includes such devices and related services that enable people with disabilities or lifestyle diseases like diabetes to maintain a normal life.
Assistive technology is a major success in the technological act and information technology that directly assists a person with a number of disabilities to increase maintain or improve their functional capabilities.
Occupational therapists suggest that assistive products and resources help users, who are individuals with disabilities, in performing major life functions.
Prosthetic devices, hearing and memory aids, vision-helping tools, and many others are examples of assistive technology.
Who needs Assistive Technology Devices?
An estimate from the World Health Organization (WHO) expresses that more than 1 billion people in the world need one or more assistive technology devices and services in carrying out the functions of their daily lives. It amounts to a remarkable number considering the fact that the population of the world is around 7.2 billion only.
Moreover, another estimate by WHO presents that nine out of ten people in need of assistive technology do not get access to its high-tech product system or services.
A sad and surprising fact indeed!
The number of people who either use assistive technology or need it equals about one part of seven of the world’s total population. It may not seem much in this way but when you consider the 1110 million number, we get the seriousness of the case!
Some people can be in need of severe technical assistance while others may require only general technology-related assistance. The people who most need assistive technologies, include:
1. People with Disabilities
People with benchmark disabilities face numerous problems in performing acts of normal living. Often people engrossed with various physical disabilities are in need of assistive technologies such as braille displays, screen readers, screen magnifiers, wheelchairs, prosthetics, etc.
2. Elderly People
A lot of people develop various diseases, physical inabilities, and problems with growing age. Assistive technology devices and related services help them maintain a good living. These often include assistive technology services such as wheelchairs, walkers, adaptive seating and positioning, memory aids, and many more.
3. People with Diseases
Assistive technology services are also helpful to people engrossed with non-communicable diseases, especially lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and stroke. It helps them live a more productive, independent, and dignified life.
AT plays an important role in stroke prevention. Stroke rehabilitation services aid in the recovery of stroke patients by making it easier for them to communicate, while it also helps to improve memory and thinking.
4. People with Mental Health Problems
When accounting for a disability, many of us miss mental health problems. Assistive technologies are helpful when dealing with mental health problems too. This includes depression, anxiety, and other issues. Among other rehabilitation plans for these problems, AT has an important role to play.
Technical assistance provided by assistive technology devices or equipment helps people with non-communicable diseases, old-age problems, other physical inabilities, and mental health problems to perform major life functions without the help of family, friends, and other members by increasing their functional capabilities.
It also helps promote independence, confidence, and dignity in many of the users of assistive technology devices and tech acts.
Various Types of Assistive Technology Devices
Now that you have understood what is assistive technology and what people it is meant for, you must be curious about what types of product services, devices, and systems come under assistive technology devices.
There is a wide range of assistive technology devices ranging from educational software to technical pieces of equipment, electronic devices, and others. Assistive technologies are more than often designed to target specific problems. In seven different categories, some of the most useful assistive technological devices are discussed below:
AT is extremely useful for people who are visually impaired or blind in living an everyday normal life. It includes devices such as Braille displays, screen reading software, text-to-speech systems, magnifiers, etc.
2. Hearing Aids
Assistive technologies are greatly helpful to people with hard hearing problems or who are deaf. These include devices such as wireless TV listening systems, doorbells with flashing light alerts, amplified telephones, mobile devices with texting or specialized apps, vibrating alarm clocks, etc.
Assistive products and services such as artificial larynx, speech output software, speech generating devices, voice amplification, etc help speech-impaired people.
4. Mobility, and Positioning Devices
Crutches, wheelchairs, scooters, power chairs, seat belts, canes, etc help people with mobility assistance. These devices seem simple but they have the ability to immensely change the life of a person for the greater good.
There are numerous products that help people with disabilities access and make use of computer devices. These include voice recognition, alternative keyboards and input devices, screen magnification software, etc.
6. Learning and Cognition
There are a lot of people who require assistance with learning things, attention, memory, and organization. It includes services such as memory aids, reminder systems, notetaking systems, audiobooks, notetaking, specialized mobile apps, etc.
7. Daily Living and Leisure
People with functional disabilities and older people require the use of assistive technology in their daily lives. Examples include vacuum robots, book stands, adapted appliances, camera mounts, adapted sporting pieces of equipment and devices, etc.
Other assistive technology devices and services include devices such as lifts, ramps, electronics, door openers, raised roofs, communication boards, amplified telephones, etc.
5 Benefits of Assistive Technology Devices
Assistive technology has a lot of benefits on its part. The devices and services offered by such helpful, moral, and technically advanced technology-related assistance.
1. Promotes Independence
Assistive technology helps promote independence in people who because of certain reasons are rendered incapable of performing certain tasks by themselves, or, living as normally as other people. Technology in the form of a medical device is helpful to improve the functional capabilities of people who make use of it.
2. Helps Memory and Recall
Assistive technology helps people with dementia and other memory-related problems in recalling and remembering certain important things which are necessary to keep their health fine. It can be remembering the right time to take a medicine or as simple a thing as drinking water.
3. Managing Risks
Functional evaluation of technology-related assistance shows that it is quite helpful in reducing risk to a great amount.
4. Helps People Retain their Lives in Homes
What is best about the use of assistive technology is that it prevents a lot of people from having to take shelter in care houses and hospitals. It allows people with disabilities and certain other problems to retain a happy life with their families in their homes.
5. It Makes the Life of Caregivers Easier
Assistive technology is substantially involved in making the life of caregivers easy. Often family members, friends, and other members have to keep being involved continuously in order to help and take care of people, who are engrossed with certain disabilities. Assistive technology tackles this problem by making available a wide web of technical product systems.
4 Drawbacks of Assistive Technology Devices
While assistive technology proves to be highly effective for people with benchmark disabilities in making their lives easier and retaining an independent, happy and healthy life, it also involves certain risks which can make it harmful to its users. Therefore, it becomes highly important to take certain precautions while using assistive technology.
Safe use of assistive services ensures a well-off life for its users, while unsafe and improper adds more problems to the already existing ones. Taking proper care in making use of these technical assistive services will help patient safety.
Like two faces of a coin, assistive technology has its demerits and merits. These include:
1. It Can Promote too much Dependency
This is meant especially for such people who are not perenially ill and can recover. As odd as it seems, like any technological device which promotes too much dependence on it, assistive technology, even when meant for helping, could be harmful to its users. Patients may become completely dependent on the use of such devices in the normal functioning of their lives. In these cases, it is a therapy that works better then.
Assistive technologies are extremely helpful as they have several benefits associated with them. But this does not alter the fact that most such technological devices are expensive. In fact, many of them are so costly that they are beyond use for many people.
3. Many of those Require Training
Technological devices can be hard at times to use and may require proper training by the patients to accommodate themselves to the use of these services. However, the eternal capacity of the ever-growing internet makes training a much easy process, which can even be accomplished even online. With the help of a close friend or a family member, the tough process of learning the use of assistive technology becomes way easier.
4. Can Fail at Times
Technology, no matter what kind, can not ever be fully relied on. There are some times when these masterpieces of technology can fail too. After all, it has its own flaws. At times, when they fail to work properly, it can be very uncomfortable for its user. Especially when it happens at an important time.
However, this is nothing to worry about. The proper maintenance of the assistive technology device, precautions, and proper care reduce this risk by a great amount.
This article, thus totally answers the question ‘What is Assistive Technology?‘
To recap, Assistive Technology incorporates all those devices, services, and products that ensure assistance to people with disabilities, old age, and other mental problems.
It promotes independence and gives them confidence. AT tools help people plan, organize, memorize and maintain the order of their tasks and help them in enhancing their functional capabilities.
Assistive technology devices make people able to perform functions that would seem difficult or impossible otherwise. The services are truly a gift to all those disabled and elderly people whose lives it has made easier and happier.
1. What are some of the common applications of Assistive Technology?
Ans. Some of the common applications of Assistive Technology are:
- Stair Lifts
- Video Conferencing Tool
- Virtual Office Hours
- Automatic Page Turners
2. Name some latest Assistive Technology?
Ans. Some of the latest Assistive Technologies are:
- Google Accessible Places
- Pills on Wheels
- Skyle for iPad
3. What was the first Assistive Device?
Ans. The first Assistive Device was a Wheelchair.